The shelter fight in Maspeth took an ugly turn when the de Blasio administration both directly and indirectly accused peaceful Maspeth protesters of racism. But as the old adage goes, when you point a finger at someone, you end up with 3 fingers pointed back at you, and that is exactly what ended up happening to Mr. de Blasio’s shameless propagandists.
A September trip to help our friends in Bellerose resulted in something very good and something very bad. The good that came out of it was that 2 other hotels owned by Maspeth Holiday Inn Express owner Harshad Patel that were being used as shelters for homeless families were closed down. Shortly after our visit, the city announced that it would begin removing the residents, mostly women and children, from their cramped quarters and into more appropriate conditions.
However, during this protest, mayoral spokeswoman Aja Worthy-Davis unbeknownst to the crowd, followed us, filming all the way. Shortly after, the first of two short videos was released by the mayor’s office showing clips of the protesting crowd and children from the shelter boarding a bus taking them to a museum in order to escape our “hatred” of them. There were many groups that took part in this protest and none of them expressed hatred of homeless children, just the system in which they are trapped.
A short time later, a second propaganda video was released, showing a mother and baby purported to be staying in one of the shelters that had later been shut down. In it, the mother thanks the DHS for the hotel placement. A chant by an individual man yelling “White Lives Matter” was dubbed over inserted footage of us assembled outside her hotel. This is not language that any organization affiliated with this protest would ever condone and was a poor attempt at trying to start a race war. Just imagine – our own tax dollars were used to make 2 videos denouncing us for having the audacity to express an opinion against the mayor’s policies.
Aja’s next move was to criticize Comptroller Scott Stringer – a possible primary challenger to the mayor in 2017 – for attending the October 27 Juniper Park Civic Association town meeting. Stringer most likely disagrees with several of the moves we’ve made during the shelter fight, but didn’t let that prevent him from addressing his constituents, as he represents the entire city. What was Aja’s response? “Scott Stringer is courting a group advocating for kicking women and toddlers onto the street, using White Lives Matter as their protest song. He should be ashamed.” She was sent a cease and desist order and JPCA is contemplating legal action against the administration over this blatantly libelous statement.
The tables turned, however, on November 14th. The anti-Trump protests reached a fever pitch the weekend after the election, and the family of Mayor de Blasio’s Senior Adviser Lincoln Restler – the man responsible for bringing us the Holiday Inn Express fiasco – decided to attend the protest to celebrate his very liberal mother’s birthday. The next day he posted a photo of his mother, father and sister holding up hand drawn cardboard signs reading “Black + Brown + Immigrant Lives Matter” (dad), “Love” (mom) and “F— Whiteness” (sister). The backlash was immediate on social media. The photo was hastily removed by Restler once he started receiving negative comments about it but not before several people had obtained screenshots of it. News of his huge faux pas made its way to several media outlets, including the NY Daily News and the UK’s Daily Mail, and conservative writer Ann Coulter tweeted it out to her followers as well. Whiteness is simply defined as “the state of being white”, so how can people who are themselves white protest “whiteness”? The convoluted response from Aja Worthy-Davis: “I think his intention was to protest white supremacy. Obviously it was not well articulated. He has been spoken to and we're moving on.”
Yes, Mr. Restler is still on the city payroll, collecting a 6-figure salary. On November 17, the Maspeth protesters paid him a visit at home. He was seen peeking through the window of his Greenpoint apartment. Since then, he has deleted his Twitter account and severely curbed his Facebook usage.
The moral of the story is that race baiting by members of any governmental administration is unacceptable in the eyes of the public and will eventually come back to bite them.